Chennai Journal
Sunday, December 10, 2006
More on Darjeeling
The stars have not been very well aligned this week-- have a bad, hacking-cough-kind-of-cold, my printer at home has gone on the fritz, and there have been numerous other petty irritations at work and in doing errands--today's crisis was trying to get another SIM card for the spare cell phone used by visitors....I won't bore you with the details. So, let's just head back up to Darjeeling and have some tea, shall we?

I stayed at a little inn called the Shangri-la Regency. I found it on traveladvisor.com, to which I'm a regular contributor. The inn is right near the center of action, the Chowrastra, and got warm and cozy writeups, but the visitors who stayed there before went in October, and I was there in December and it was cold. The
Shangri-la does not have central heating, but they provided a space heater and---sharp knock at the door at 8:00 p.m.----a hot water bottle for my feet. Still, I think the nights in this place probably account for the cold I came down with earlier this week. I hope it doesn't linger too long.

The Shangri-la was not full, but among my fellow travellers was a very
pleasant Australian trio, two men and a woman, who were on a month long sojourn through Nepal and northern India--after Darjeeling, they were headed to Sikkim. One of the men was a student (as opposed to a devotee) of Buddhism, and was visiting some of the more well known monasteries scattered through these parts. They had also caught up with a young woman that he had sponsored years before in Kathmandu--an 8 year old beggar girl whose family he befriended during his time there and he wound up paying for the girl to go to school in Darjeeling. She now is a primary school teacher and has an apartment with a DVD and a microwave--a life she never could have known without his largesse.

Darjeeling is also home to the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute. It's connected to the zoo, which is one of the better ones in India--red pandas, a couple of different kinds of tigers, leopards, leopard cats, and many other exotic breeds I hadn't seen elsewhere. HMI contains a storehouse of treasures and photos of the great expedition led by Sir Edmund Hillary to reach the summit of Mt.
Everest--accompanied by his trusty sherpa guide, Tenzing Norgay, resident of Darjeeling. The museum contains all the original gear--right down to the boots, tents and pickaxes--used by the Hillary expedition. His reaching the summit coincided with the very day of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II--no bad omen.

As everywhere, drivers are a great source of local knowledge, and Darjeeling was no exception. One day I took an ill-fated pre-dawn expedition to Tiger Hill, where you are supposed to be able to see the complete mountain range including, on some occasions, the distant peak of Mt. Everest, but this was the only day during my stay when the sky was completely cloud-covered. The driver was a young man named Jason, whose grandfather was employed by a British military man stationed in Darjeeling, and who had been converted to Christianity. When the last of the British left Darjeeling after Independence, the man left his grandfather his house and his 1952 Land Rover, which Jason still owns and maintains. His family also still lives in the house. I am sure there are many other stories like this one---and some not so generous, as well.

Near the Chowrastra, or main square of the town, is a temple up on a hill, called Mahakala Mandir,
which is a place for both Buddhists and Hindus. It was colorful in the morning sun, decorated with thousands of prayer flags. I sat on a bench and watched as people went into the temple and came out and were decorated with a small paste on their forehead. It was a peaceful setting.

Back to the grueling business of getting that SIM card......

Not sure where to post this but I wanted to ask if anyone has heard of National Clicks?

Can someone help me find it?

Overheard some co-workers talking about it all week but didn't have time to ask so I thought I would post it here to see if someone could help me out.

Seems to be getting alot of buzz right now.

Post a Comment

<< Home

Powered by Blogger

Bloggapedia, Blog Directory - Find It! Travel blogs